Impact Factors: Some getting started information

While conducting scholarly research you’ve probably seen mentions of ‘impact factors’. We’ll use today’s post to provide a little more information and to link you out to some great resources to learn more.

Generally speaking, impact factors are measures (using varying metrics but often citation counts) that suggest the ‘importance’ or ‘significance’ of either an author, article, or journal. Various stakeholders like to use these impact factors as proof that either their work or their journal or their institution, etc. is valuable to the research community.

There are many types of impact factors and each is calculated differently. There are measures for authors which use formulas based on how many articles they’ve published and how many times each of those articles have been cited. There are other measures for journals which might look at how often a typical article in that publication is cited each year, and so on.

A couple common author-level impact measures include:

  • H-Index: An author-level metric used to calculate an individual scholar’s research impact.  Check out this guide from Boston College to learn more.
  • Altmetric: As described on the Altmetric website, “Altmetrics are metrics and qualitative data that are complementary to traditional, citation-based metrics. They can include (but are not limited to) peer reviews on Faculty of 1000, citations on Wikipedia and in public policy documents, discussions on research blogs, mainstream media coverage, bookmarks on reference managers like Mendeley, and mentions on social networks such as Twitter.”  Check out our blog post about Altmetrics for more info.

What gets a little complex, of course, is whether these formulas/calculations are accurate measures of something like ‘impact’. Some of the formulas will include self-citations which can skew results. Others have argued that citation counts do not reflect the full ‘impact’ of a work. There is a recent movement in ‘altmetrics’ to track impact in other spaces such as social media, as mentioned above, to give a more complete picture of how a work is being used and discussed.

Some tools, like Google Scholar’s author profiles, will include a list of author-level citation metrics. You can view this data on an author’s profile page and if you hover over the name of the metric you can reveal a definition of how it was calculated:

Screenshot of author profile

There can be a TON to know about impact factors and citation metrics and some of it can get quite complicated. UC Irvine  has a wonderful LibGuide which provides a lot of this information is easily digestible chunks: http://guides.lib.uci.edu/c.php?g=334451&p=2249950.

The University of Illinois also has a great guide which covers journal impact factor in particular: http://researchguides.uic.edu/if/impact. Lastly, Elsevier has put together a nice list of various impact measures and their formulas: https://www.elsevier.com/authors/journal-authors/measuring-a-journals-impact.

Next time you see a journal advertising its impact factor, or you’re trying to understand the influence of a scholar’s research in their field, consider drawing on some of these tools to gain better insight into what those impact factors and influences might mean.

Happy Searching!

TBT: This Donut Might Be Good For You and more!

UPDATE: Last fall we brought you this post about a wonderful little tool from Altmetrics that lets you see how an article is being talked about in social media.  Since then, many of our library resources have integrated Altmetric data into their records making it easier than ever to know what other researchers think of a work in real time.

You can check out the original post below to see how to download the special ‘Bookmarklet’ tool, but we’ll also show you where this data is hiding in Fielding’s library under the ‘Library Updates’ section of the page.

Library Updates:

The easiest place to see Altmetric data in our library is on the FASTsearch results page.  Once you find a result you like, just click on the ‘Preview’ button and you’ll find the Altmetric data (when available) at the end of the preview:

Screenshot of Fastsearch result.

Click image to enlarge.

Just click on ‘See more details’ to look at the expanded view which is described in detail below.

Most of the ProQuest databases now also include the Altmetric donut.  ProQuest records include the donut in the bottom, right-hand corner of the ‘Abstract/Details’ page.  Now on to the original post…

Original Post:

Mmmmmm….who doesn’t love a deliciously bad for you donut?!

Donuts

Image by Dave Crosby. CC license here.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were another kind of donut entirely?  Something with the visual appeal of a donut, but which would feed you interesting information about academic articles?  Sounds like gibberish, but it’s not.  Enter: Altmetric.

altmetric donut

Image from Altmetric.

Now that we’re hooked and hungry, what exactly is Altmetric?  In the most general sense, it’s a tool meant to bolster or complement citation-based metrics by including data from alternative sources such as social media outlets.

Many of you savvy students know there can be power in analyzing how many times an article has been cited (i.e. looking at citation counts); BUT, how do we begin to consider the ways an article is being cited by or mentioned in non-traditional sources?

We all know that, today, researchers, professionals and the public alike take to Twitter, blogs, Facebook, newspapers, and other media outlets to express thoughts and opinions on every topic under the Sun.

So wouldn’t it be nice to see if an article has been mentioned, for example, on Twitter?  Not only that; wouldn’t it be nice to see how many times an article has been mentioned on Twitter, by whom, and in what context?

Altmetric can track this type of information and presents it as a nice color-coded donut, displaying how many times and through which outlet a work was mentioned. Their simple bookmarklet tool, discussed below, can be used to this end and is completely free.  Each donut will look a bit different depending on the number and types of sources which mention the article (light blue = Twitter; yellow = blogs; etc.).

Pretty cool, right?!

For those who respond ‘heck yeah!’ jump on down to the ‘Altmetric Bookmarklet’ section.  For those who say ‘but why?!’, read on!

But Why….

This is a good question. First, we can probably agree that any article metric, even a citation count, is not necessarily a measure of the article’s impact or quality.  However, we generally accept that it can be a nice way to know which articles seem to be talked about frequently in their field.

The problem? The scholarly publishing cycle is not the fastest mechanism in the world.  You may read an article, cite it in an article you write, then have your work published 2 years later.  But, you may also read the same article, take to your blog or Twitter with ease, and comment on it within an hour of reading it.

Social Media apps

Image by Jason Howie. CC license here.

It’s these latter mentions–the way a work is being immediately engaged with via social media–that can be hard to measure but offer interesting information on the way a paper, idea, or research is being used.  Altmetric is attempting to fill this gap by tracking how articles are mentioned in these harder-to-measure spaces.

Altmetric Bookmarklet

*Disclaimer: Fielding does not have an institutional Altmetric subscription; however, the Altmetric Bookmarklet lets you take advantage of much of their data for free!

The ‘bookmarklet’ is basically a little button you add to your browser’s bookmarks bar, like so:

altmetric toolbar

Click image to enlarge.

Altmetric has a webpage which explains everything you need to know about adding the bookmarklet to your browser and using it: http://www.altmetric.com/bookmarklet.php  Or the visual learner may appreciate watching their 45-second getting started video below:

Once you’ve got the button in your toolbar, you can simply click on it (while viewing the webpage for an article) to see if they’ve collected any data:

altmetric example

Click image to enlarge.

Alright, so the Twitter count is kind of interesting, but is that it?  No way!  Click the spot which says ‘click for more details’ to get to the good stuff.

The top of the details page will provide you with some summary information, and, more importantly, the option to sign up to receive alerts any time this article receives additional mentions!

altmetric top detail

Click image to enlarge.

The middle and bottom portions of the detail page allow you to see the demographic breakdown of mentions by type (*note, a ‘twitter demographics’ section, a ‘mendeley readers’ section, etc.).  Particularly interesting is that you can see a geographic breakdown of where these users were, but also a breakdown of whether the ‘tweeter’ was a practitioner, scientist, etc.:

altmetric demographics

Click image to enlarge.

Now, your librarian’s favorite part of all this, seeing these mentions in context!  Back at the top of the screen, you will see that we landed on the ‘Summary’ page.  But, in this example, you will also see a ‘Twitter’ tab.  If this article had other types of mentions, you would also see tabs for things such as ‘Blogs’, ‘News’, and so on.  Clicking on the tab for a particular source will display the actual mention in context:

altmetric twitter

The top of the page will explain the number of tweets, number of users, and potential number of followers who viewed those tweets.  Below, you can see the tweet itself and the way in which the article was mentioned: were they singing praises? Retweeting someone else’s posts? Taking issue with the work?  The details are right there.

A Few Things to Know…

This tool is pretty awesome, but there is always fine print.  You will see on the Altmetric site that they do have a few caveats regarding the bookmarklet, as is the case with any tool.

For one, the tool only works on pages/articles which contain certain types of information, such as a DOI number. This means it functions best with more recent works.

Also, it only works on articles which use certain types of metadata.  This explanation could get tedious and boring, suffice to say that it works well with some stuff and not others.

For library users, it may be worth noting that Altmetric seems to work best on the actual webpage for an article. From your librarian’s tests, it works well on database pages created by the publisher (such as: SAGE, Springer, Taylor & Francis, etc.).  However, it is not the best at reading pages within vendor databases (such as: ProQuest or EBSCO).  If you really want Altmetric data for an article here, it may be best to find the article through the publisher’s website and use the toolbar there.

Bottom Line: There will certainly not be altmetric data available for everything.  In fact, chances are there will be a great number of articles for which there is no data.  Not necessarily because the toolbar doesn’t work, but because not all works are mentioned in social media, the article was published too long ago, etc.

More Examples

It might be interesting to see a few screenshots of other donut examples to give you a sense of how they change.  Enjoy these images below!

This article includes Twitter and Facebook mentions:

donut with facebook and twitter

Click image to enlarge.

This article, from Nature, shows a lovely donut representing mentions via various formats like news outlets, blogs, Twitter, Google +, and more!

donut with many mention types

Click image to enlarge.

We hope you enjoy exploring this new tool!  Happy Searching!

Farewell 2015!

We’ve done it! (Just about).  Made it to the end of another year and, hopefully, a brief period of rest and relaxation. Hooray!

Merry Christmas!!!

Image by Toni Blay. CC license here.

For those of you attending Winter Session in January, we hope you will bring your rejuvenated and reinvigorated self by the library table to say hello.  We will be around teaching classes and offering reference assistance.  If you’d like to coordinate an appointment time with a librarian, please send us an email: library@fielding.edu.

For this final blog post of the year, we thought you might enjoy taking a look at Altmetric’s Top 100 Articles of 2015. They’ve combed through their data and compiled this list of the 100 articles which have gotten “the most attention from the mainstream media, blogs, Wikipedia and social networks, as well as amongst a more academic audience in post-publication peer-review forums and research highlights” (quote from this page).

The list represents a fascinating spread of topics, from theropods to hiring inequality to plastic pollution to Facebook, you’re sure to discover something of interest here.

If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can always curl up with one of your go-to favorites; it’s YOUR vacation!

201/365: secret #19

Image by malik ml williams. CC license here.

Happy Searching and Happy New Year!

This donut might be good for you…

Mmmmmm….who doesn’t love a deliciously bad for you donut?!

Donuts

Image by Dave Crosby. CC license here.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were another kind of donut entirely?  Something with the visual appeal of a donut, but which would feed you interesting information about academic articles?  Sounds like gibberish, but it’s not.  Enter: Altmetric.

altmetric donut

Image from Altmetric.

Now that we’re hooked and hungry, what exactly is Altmetric?  In the most general sense, it’s a tool meant to bolster or complement citation-based metrics by including data from alternative sources such as social media outlets.

Many of you savvy students know there can be power in analyzing how many times an article has been cited (i.e. looking at citation counts); BUT, how do we begin to consider the ways an article is being cited by or mentioned in non-traditional sources?

We all know that, today, researchers, professionals and the public alike take to Twitter, blogs, Facebook, newspapers, and other media outlets to express thoughts and opinions on every topic under the Sun.

So wouldn’t it be nice to see if an article has been mentioned, for example, on Twitter?  Not only that; wouldn’t it be nice to see how many times an article has been mentioned on Twitter, by whom, and in what context?

Altmetric can track this type of information and presents it as a nice color-coded donut, displaying how many times and through which outlet a work was mentioned. Their simple bookmarklet tool, discussed below, can be used to this end and is completely free.  Each donut will look a bit different depending on the number and types of sources which mention the article (light blue = Twitter; yellow = blogs; etc.).

Pretty cool, right?!

For those who respond ‘heck yeah!’ jump on down to the ‘Altmetric Bookmarklet’ section.  For those who say ‘but why?!’, read on!

But Why….

This is a good question. First, we can probably agree that any article metric, even a citation count, is not necessarily a measure of the article’s impact or quality.  However, we generally accept that it can be a nice way to know which articles seem to be talked about frequently in their field.

The problem? The scholarly publishing cycle is not the fastest mechanism in the world.  You may read an article, cite it in an article you write, then have your work published 2 years later.  But, you may also read the same article, take to your blog or Twitter with ease, and comment on it within an hour of reading it.

Social Media apps

Image by Jason Howie. CC license here.

It’s these latter mentions–the way a work is being immediately engaged with via social media–that can be hard to measure but offer interesting information on the way a paper, idea, or research is being used.  Altmetric is attempting to fill this gap by tracking how articles are mentioned in these harder-to-measure spaces.

Altmetric Bookmarklet

*Disclaimer: Fielding does not have an institutional Altmetric subscription; however, the Altmetric Bookmarklet lets you take advantage of much of their data for free!

The ‘bookmarklet’ is basically a little button you add to your browser’s bookmarks bar, like so:

altmetric toolbar

Click image to enlarge.

Altmetric has a webpage which explains everything you need to know about adding the bookmarklet to your browser and using it: http://www.altmetric.com/bookmarklet.php  Or the visual learner may appreciate watching their 45-second getting started video below:

 

Once you’ve got the button in your toolbar, you can simply click on it (while viewing the webpage for an article) to see if they’ve collected any data:

altmetric example

Click image to enlarge.

 

Alright, so the Twitter count is kind of interesting, but is that it?  No way!  Click the spot which says ‘click for more details’ to get to the good stuff.

The top of the details page will provide you with some summary information, and, more importantly, the option to sign up to receive alerts any time this article receives additional mentions!

altmetric top detail

Click image to enlarge.

The middle and bottom portions of the detail page allow you to see the demographic breakdown of mentions by type (*note, a ‘twitter demographics’ section, a ‘mendeley readers’ section, etc.).  Particularly interesting is that you can see a geographic breakdown of where these users were, but also a breakdown of whether the ‘tweeter’ was a practitioner, scientist, etc.:

altmetric demographics

Click image to enlarge.

Now, your librarian’s favorite part of all this, seeing these mentions in context!  Back at the top of the screen, you will see that we landed on the ‘Summary’ page.  But, in this example, you will also see a ‘Twitter’ tab.  If this article had other types of mentions, you would also see tabs for things such as ‘Blogs’, ‘News’, and so on.  Clicking on the tab for a particular source will display the actual mention in context:

altmetric twitter

The top of the page will explain the number of tweets, number of users, and potential number of followers who viewed those tweets.  Below, you can see the tweet itself and the way in which the article was mentioned: were they singing praises? Retweeting someone else’s posts? Taking issue with the work?  The details are right there.

A Few Things to Know…

This tool is pretty awesome, but there is always fine print.  You will see on the Altmetric site that they do have a few caveats regarding the bookmarklet, as is the case with any tool.

For one, the tool only works on pages/articles which contain certain types of information, such as a DOI number. This means it functions best with more recent works.

Also, it only works on articles which use certain types of metadata.  This explanation could get tedious and boring, suffice to say that it works well with some stuff and not others.

For library users, it may be worth noting that Altmetric seems to work best on the actual webpage for an article. From your librarian’s tests, it works well on database pages created by the publisher (such as: SAGE, Springer, Taylor & Francis, etc.).  However, it is not the best at reading pages within vendor databases (such as: ProQuest or EBSCO).  If you really want Altmetric data for an article here, it may be best to find the article through the publisher’s website and use the toolbar there.

Bottom Line: There will certainly not be altmetric data available for everything.  In fact, chances are there will be a great number of articles for which there is no data.  Not necessarily because the toolbar doesn’t work, but because not all works are mentioned in social media, the article was published too long ago, etc.

More Examples

It might be interesting to see a few screenshots of other donut examples to give you a sense of how they change.  Enjoy these images below!

This article includes Twitter and Facebook mentions:

donut with facebook and twitter

Click image to enlarge.

 

This article, from Nature, shows a lovely donut representing mentions via various formats like news outlets, blogs, Twitter, Google +, and more!

donut with many mention types

Click image to enlarge.

We hope you enjoy exploring this new tool!  Happy Searching!